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School system pushes success through evening classes

McDuffie County School officials will do whatever it takes to help students graduate, including working extra shifts. Since February 2005, evening classes have been available to McDuffie County high school students who need to make up credits from classes they have failed.

Assistant Principal Lynn Cato said the program was the brainchild of Steve Strouble, the principal at Crossroads Learning Center, who was seeking a way to help students get back on track for graduation.

Ms. Cato said the benefits of the program include reducing class sizes during the regular school day, decreasing the need for summer school and allowing students to catch up academically.

The program also gets results, with 16 graduates added to McDuffie's graduation rate this year.

"It is a very beneficial effort that not everybody does," said Dr. Barry O'Neill, the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. "We would like to thank all those involved in making it happen, particularly Pat Farner, who is in charge."

The program originated on the Crossroads campus, but was moved to Thomson High School in the fall of 2005, because the students being served were there. The classes take place between 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the school calendar year. Ms. Cato said class sizes are limited and a waiting list is maintained. Classes are filled on a priority basis, with seniors receiving top priorities. The students pay $50 per one-half unit course.

Courses offered include literature and composition, structure and writing, Algebra I and II, money government, economics, biology, physical science, earth science and chemistry. Lessons are provided on-line by Novel/Star.

According to Ms. Cato, the program operates as a credit recovery program, meaning it is an option for students who have completed the mandatory seat time requirements, but failed the course as outlined by the Georgia Department of Education, the Georgia Accreditation Commission and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Because it is a recovery program, students must keep the original grade they earned in class, but a second grade earned in the evening school is posted to their transcript.

Ms. Cato said the program is not an "easy, quick-fix," because the curriculum is "rigorous." Students must score 75 percent or better, then pass an on-line final exam.

"The best part is the look on the students' faces when they have the evening school credits posted to their transcripts and can promote or graduate because of those credits. We can't put a price on the value of those smiles," Ms. Cato said.

Web posted on Thursday, June 29, 2006

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